Posts Tagged With: Barack Obama

When Will SSA Get A Real Commissioner, If Ever?

On January 23, 2017, Nancy A. Berryhill became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, with responsibility for overseeing one of the nation’s largest and most important domestic programs. (When will SSA get a real Commissioner? President appointed only Acting Commissioners.)

                                                                                                                  

 With a $12 billion budget and almost 64,000 employees serving in more than 1,500 offices across the country and around the world, plus 16,000 State employees making disability determinations, the Social Security Administration issues more than $960 billion in payments to nearly 66 million people each year.

Previously, Ms. Berryhill served as the Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security’s largest component, where she successfully implemented many expanded service delivery options for the public. Prior to that position, Ms. Berryhill served two years as the agency’s Regional Commissioner for the Chicago Region and five years as Regional Commissioner for the Denver Region. In Denver, she developed numerous innovative, mission-focused initiatives such as video service delivery, use of webinar technology, and the creation of the first American Indian outreach guide.

Ms. Berryhill began her Social Security career as a GS-2 student employee. In her 40 years at the agency, she has held many frontline positions, including Claims Clerk, Service Representative, Claims Representative, Operations Supervisor, District Manager, and Area Director for the State of Illinois.

Ms. Berryhill has received numerous agency awards, including the Commissioner’s Citation, the agency’s highest recognition. In 2010, she received the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive, and in 2015, she received the Presidential Rank Award of Distinguished Executive, the highest honor awarded career executives in the Federal Government. Her work and achievements consistently demonstrate professional excellence, exceptional leadership, integrity, and commitment to public service.

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Ms. Berryhill obtained her degree in Computer Science at the Control Data Institute in Chicago. She is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

PREVIOUS ACTING COMMISSIONER:

Meet The New Acting Commissioner Of THe Social Security Administration, Carolyn Colvin.

                                                                                                             

On February 14, 2013, Carolyn W. Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security.  Prior to this designation, she served as the Deputy Commissioner, having been confirmed by the United States Senate on December 22, 2010 as President Obama’s nominee.  In addition to her role as the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Ms. Colvin serves as a Trustee to the Social Security Board of Trustees.

Throughout her career, Ms. Colvin has managed programs that help people with their healthcare and financial needs.  She previously held key executive positions at Social Security Headquarters: Deputy Commissioner for Policy and External Affairs (1994–1996), Deputy Commissioner for Programs and Policy (1996–1998), and Deputy Commissioner for Operations (1998–2001).

Prior to returning to SSA, Ms. Colvin was the Director of Human Services for the District of Columbia (2001-2003); the Director of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (2003-2007); the Chief Executive Officer of AMERIGROUP Community Care of the District of Columbia (2007–2008); and, the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Transportation (2009-2011).  In addition, Ms. Colvin served as the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Human Resources (1989-1994).

Ms. Colvin has received numerous awards and recognition for her managerial expertise and creativity, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women Award from the Daily Record (2005) and the Women of Achievement Award from Suburban Maryland Business and Professional Women (2005).  She has served on a variety of boards and commissions, including the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Ms. Colvin earned her graduate and undergraduate degrees in business administration from Morgan State University.  Additionally, she completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University, the Maryland Leadership Program, and the Greater Baltimore Leadership Program. Ms. Colvin is from Maryland and currently resides in Anne Arundel County.  She has one son and six grandchildren.

 https://judgelondonsteverson.me/2013/01/14/who-will-president-obama-select-to-be-the-new-commissioner-of-the-social-security-administration/

Who Will President Obama Select To Be The New Commissioner Of The Social Security Administration?

Michael Astrue

Michael J. Astrue was sworn in as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) on February 12, 2007 for a six-year term that expires on January 19, 2013. President Barack Obama is expected to soon nominate a new Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Astrue was appointed by President George W. Bush. The White House is silent about who will take the helm at SSA.  The SSA faces voluminous backlogs and claimants may have to wait up to 5 years just to get a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Some extreme cases have taken more than 10 years from the date of filing a claim to get a final decision on whether they are entitled to disability retirement benefits.

Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue’s six-year term expires January 19, 2013. His successor must be confirmed by the Senate, in a process that Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, expects will take a couple of months from the hearings to a vote.

Michael Astrue was still Commissioner of Social Security on 25 January. His term ran out on January 19 but the Social Security Act says he can stay in his job until a successor is confirmed. He hasn’t resigned so he’s still Commissioner. The same is true for Deputy Commissioner Carolyn Colvin. The rumor had been that Astrue did not intend to stay on after his term ended.  So far, he’s proving that rumor wrong. Astrue does seem to be clearing items off his desk. Take a look at what he just sent over to the Office of Management and Budget. I wonder if he’s planning to send over his version of new mental impairment listings before leaving.

The SSA has more than 11,000 employees at its headquarters in Woodlawn, Maryland. It provides benefits to retirees, disabled Americans and the children of deceased workers. The SSA paid more than $778,000,000,000 (that is billion) in benefits to 56 million people. The SSA’s budget rivals that of the Department Of Defense.

Carolyn Colvin is Astrue’s Deputy, but she is not considered to be a serious contender to replace him. She was confirmed by the Senate two years ago. Her term also expires January 19, 2013. She is a former secretary of the state Department of Human Resources and served as special assistant to Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation.

One possibility that comes to mind is that there will never be an announcement of an Obama nominee for Commissioner of Social Security. Astrue will leave the job in the near future and Carolyn Colvin will become the Acting Commissioner for the rest of Obama’s term as President. Colvin as Acting Commissioner, unlike Astrue and unlike a nominated and confirmed Commissioner of Social Security, would be serving at the President’s will. If Colvin displeased the President, she could be removed from the job by Obama nominating and the Senate confirming a Commissioner. I think it is more than possible that the President has had his fill of an independent Social Security Commissioner and wants someone who is truly on his team. I have no inside information. This is just my speculation. Of course, this can’t happen if Astrue keeps hanging around.

(BIOGRAPHY of Catolyn Colvin)

QUOTE: On February 14, 2013, Carolyn W. Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security.  Prior to this designation, she served as the Deputy Commissioner, having been confirmed by the United States Senate on December 22, 2010 as President Obama’s nominee.  In addition to her role as the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Ms. Colvin serves as a Trustee to the Social Security Board of Trustees.

Throughout her career, Ms. Colvin has managed programs that help people with their healthcare and financial needs.  She previously held key executive positions at Social Security Headquarters: Deputy Commissioner for Policy and External Affairs (1994–1996), Deputy Commissioner for Programs and Policy (1996–1998), and Deputy Commissioner for Operations (1998–2001).

Prior to returning to SSA, Ms. Colvin was the Director of Human Services for the District of Columbia (2001-2003); the Director of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (2003-2007); the Chief Executive Officer of AMERIGROUP Community Care of the District of Columbia (2007–2008); and, the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Transportation (2009-2011).  In addition, Ms. Colvin served as the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Human Resources (1989-1994).

Ms. Colvin has received numerous awards and recognition for her managerial expertise and creativity, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women Award from the Daily Record (2005) and the Women of Achievement Award from Suburban Maryland Business and Professional Women (2005).  She has served on a variety of boards and commissions, including the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Ms. Colvin earned her graduate and undergraduate degrees in business administration from Morgan State University.  Additionally, she completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University, the Maryland Leadership Program, and the Greater Baltimore Leadership Program. Ms. Colvin is from Maryland and currently resides in Anne Arundel County.  She has one son and six grandchildren. UNQUOTE.

Nancy Altman, who helps lead two Social Security advocacy groups, has emerged as a potential contender. She has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO and the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ), a network of 1,400 ALJs who decide disability insurance claims. The endorsement of the AALJ is the kiss of death; so, she cannot really be considered a serious contender for the job.

Nevertheless, Judge Randall Frye, president of the AALJ, has  said the AALJ is backing Ms. Altman for Commissioner because of her expertise.

For her part, Ms. Altman has said “My goal would be to restore confidence in the agency and to let the workforce know how appreciative I am and the American people are for the work that is being done.”

One of the major challenges the next commissioner will confront is building administrative support to decrease the long backlogs in the disability insurance program. This is something that Commissioner Astrue was not able to accomplish despite all of the ALJs he was allowed to place on the federal pay roll and the increase in budget that he was granted. The new Commissioner will also be challenged to improve the quality of service that SSA employees are reputed to provide to the public.  Case workers and administrative staff members at SSA are notorious for their abrupt manners and surly attitudes resulting in a low level of public service. The Agency will be challenged to provide a higher level of service.

Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, was noted to remark that “This is an opportunity at the Social Security Administration to really take it to the next level, and it’s important to make sure it has the resources it needs”.

James Robinson Jr.

My choice for the next Commissioner is something of a dark horse. He is James Roosevelt Jr. He is a Health Care Insurance man and considering the controversy surrounding the implementation of ObamaCare, he would be a natural choice for President Obama for his 2nd term.

President Obama’s reelection lifted much of the cloud that hung over the health care industry in Massachusetts, where caregivers and insurers anticipated a push to repeal the national health care overhaul if Mitt Romney had become president. But Romney was not elected.

“This outcome provides an opportunity for greater cooperation and less contention,” said James Roosevelt Jr., chief executive of Tufts Health Plan.

But health care organizations are still seeking clarity on many features of ObamaCare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, many of which have not yet taken effect. The federal overhaul includes regulations requiring insurers to invest in new technology and funds for expanding Medicaid and revamping Medicare payments as the states press forward with their own efforts to rein in costs and build more integrated health care networks.

Obama’s victory “removes a layer of uncertainty for health plans, providers, and employers,” said Andrew Dreyfus, chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest health insurer.

In 2012 James Robinson Jr wrote an op-ed with Robert L. Reynolds, a Republican and CEO of Putnam Investments,  where he advocates raising the Social Security retirement age at a brisker pace and cutting back the growth of benefits with a different Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Robinson wrote “.. we should accelerate the rise in Social Security’s full-benefit retirement age from age 67 to 68 by 2030 and then index the full benefit age for future generations to gains in longevity. Life expectancy past age 65 has risen nearly 50 percent since 1940, when Social Security first began regular monthly payments. That said, we should improve disability options for those engaged in physically demanding jobs. No one expects coal miners or telephone line crews to work into their late 60s.”

He went further to say “On the benefits side, we should change the way we calculate the cost-of-living adjustment for all beneficiaries, by utilizing a revised Consumer Price Index which most economists agree more accurately reflects the rate of inflation for the expenses most seniors incur. Such a change would curb the rate of increase in benefits for future generations of retirees […]”

Considering President Obama’s attitude and behavior with respect to the “Fiscal Cliff” negotiations I am betting he will select James Robinson Jr to be the next Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

This just in from former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

The press and public have understandably focused in recent weeks on high-profile appointments such as the secretaries of state, defense and treasury as President Barack Obama builds his second-term team. They also should pay close attention to the search for a man or woman to serve as commissioner of the Social Security Administration — a post central to the national welfare and, with a six-year term, an appointment that will continue into the next presidency.

The Social Security Administration, headquartered just outside Baltimore in Woodlawn, touches the lives and pocketbooks of nearly every American. With this cornerstone of our social compact under demographic pressure and political threat, the president’s choice for a successor is vitally important.

Washington is a land of partisan extremes these days, a place where compromise is an orphan and dealmakers are a rare sight. Inevitably, Social Security will again be a political football as Congress attempts to manage America’s fiscal challenges. As a veteran of more than a few policy debates and political fights — some of which didn’t end the way I’d have liked — I want suggest what I think are key job requirements for the new commissioner:

•The nominee should bring substantial managerial experience. The Social Security Administration has roughly 62,000 employees. The agency processes payments of $4.5 billion to 6 million recipients every month. It needs a strong CEO capable of running a large and complex organization that does high-stakes work.

•The nominee should bring considerable policy expertise. For more than 20 years, actuaries have battled, often very publicly, over the viability of Social Security’s funding mechanism. It would be profoundly foolish today to ignore the demographic challenges the retirement of baby boomers will pose to the system. The remedy should not be a Band-Aid, but structural reform for the long haul.

The next commissioner, unlike some predecessors, should bring to the job a detailed historical knowledge of Social Security — of decisions that have made the system stronger and of others that have weakened it.

•Diplomatic skills will be essential. The commissioner of Social Security will need to deal not only with criticism from his or her natural political opponents but also with substantial pressure from natural allies. A commissioner perceived as a zealot or out of touch with the private sector will have a hard time advancing arguments for a new structure of benefits or changes to Social Security’s long term funding.

•The commissioner of Social Security needs considerable fortitude. One of the most important aspects of the job is appearing before Congress (approximately four times a year, though the frequency can shift). For at least the next two years, that will mean confronting a Republican-controlled Congress whose leadership lives in fear of tea partiers whose rhetoric would suggest they’d like to see Social Security dismantled altogether. The next commissioner of Social Security will need the strength of will and command of facts necessary to stand toe-to-toe with well-prepared congressional foes.

•Finally, the next commissioner will have to be someone passionately dedicated to the principles that underlie the Social Security system and eloquent in articulating those principles.

The vast majority of Americans want a fair system that offers dignity to the elderly while preserving economic opportunity for current and future workers. They deserve a commissioner who can ensure Social Security operates properly, provide a vision for its long-term future and lead the fight to preserve it from political critics or demographic threats.

(Bill Bradley)

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Barrack Hussein Obama Outed As Muslin By Former Pastor And Mentor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright

Obama was outed by his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, as a Muslim and not a Christian. To be outed means to have your cover blown, to have your identity declared, disclosed, or divulged. It means to have your secret identity brought out into the open, to be brought to light.

Obama’s Former Pastor: I Helped Obama Accept Christianity Without Having to Renounce Islam

In a stunning interview, NY Times best selling author Ed Klein said Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright helped Obama accept Christianity without having to renounce Islam.

In his book “The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House,”, Klein interviewed Wright for three and a half hours. Wright told him of Obama’s secret efforts to keep him quiet during the presidential campaign. But the more significant material spotlights how important Wright was to Obama’s thinking even before the future president began going to Wright’s church in 1988.

“It’s one thing for Obama to sit in the church and listen to the Rev. Wright spew his hatred against whites, Jews, and America,” Klein says. “But in my view, having spoken to the Rev. Wright, that paled by comparison with the personal relationship that Obama had that went way beyond his simply being a member of the church listening to all this stuff.”

Obama began his relationship with Wright, whom he has called a mentor and sounding board, three years before he began attending Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

“Obama went to the Rev. Wright at every stage of his career whenever things went wrong,” says Klein, a contributing editor of Vanity Fair and a former editor-in-chief of the New York Times Magazine.

“For instance, when he lost the 2000 congressional election for the seat that Bobby Rush, the former Black Panther, holds from the South Side of Chicago,” Klein says. “He was in a state of terrible depression, and he owed a great deal of money, and his marriage was on the rocks. Who did he go to? He went to the Rev. Wright for marriage counselling. He went to the Rev. Wright about what shall I do next, Rev? Every step of his career, every step of his development as a political figure was made in conjunction with conversations that he had with the Rev. Wright personally.”

As revealed in the book “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect,” just before Wright spoke at the National Press Club, Obama secretly met on April 4, 2008 with Wright at Trinity’s parsonage where Wright then lived.

So that they would not be noticed, agents made a point of driving Obama in a mini-van instead of the usual Suburban. They parked their other vehicles a block away. Obama spent an hour with Wright and then left.

“At this secret meeting with him, Obama practically begged him not to go on and speak any further,” Klein says. “This was after one of Obama’s best friends had sent an email to a member of the church saying that he was prepared to give the Rev. Wright $150,000 if he would shut up. The Rev. Wright told me that he has saved that email.”

In the recorded interview, Wright says he basically could not afford to shut up for $150,000, Klein says.

“Wright explained he had expenses that he had to pay,” Klein says. “He had a child and a couple of grand-kids in college that he was paying for. And so he goes around the United States giving sermons and making speeches, and he gets paid for that.”

Klein says Obama originally sought out Wright to discuss community activism.

“Quickly the conversations turned from picking up garbage on the street and getting streetlights put up on street corners to political matters and religious matters,” Klein says. “And the Rev. Wright turned into really a substitute father figure, who guided Obama in the two major areas of his life.”

The first area was Obama’s identity — just who was he?

“Obama was steeped in Islam, he knew a lot about Islam, but knew nothing about Christianity,” Klein says.

Klein asked, “Do you think he [Obama] ever thought of himself as a Muslim?” To which Wright replied, “Yep, yep, yep, and that was this thing, I’m sure he got some grief, not proselytising grief, but grief from that part of his family, just from, and I say that based on my wide range of Muslim friends.”

Klein asked Wright if he converted Obama from being a Muslim into a Christian. He said, “I don’t know about that, but I can tell you that I made it easy for him to come to an understanding of who Jesus Christ is and not feel that he was turning his back on his Islamic friends and his Islamic traditions and his understanding of Islam,” Wright said.

The second area was Obama’s political philosophy. Wright introduced Obama to Black Liberation theology.

“Black Liberation theology is based essentially on the Marxist belief that there is an oppressor class and an oppressed class,” Klein says. “And in the case of Black Liberation theology, the oppressor class are the whites, and the oppressed are the blacks. And there is a ‘maldistribution’ of wealth in this country, a quote from Black Liberation theology.”

The point is that wealth should be redistributed.

“This is quite close, if not identical, to Marxist beliefs,” Klein says.

Happier times: Rev. Wright was considered as a ‘Second Father’ to Obama.

As noted in the story “Media Blackout on Rev. Wright Started in 2007,” for three months during Obama’s primary campaign, the mainstream media ignored Newsmax stories reporting on Rev. Wright’s hate-filled sermons; his denunciations of America, whites, and Israel; and the fact that he gave an award for lifetime achievement to Louis Farrakhan.

By the time the media picked up the stories, Obama was ahead of Hillary Clinton in the primary elections.

According to a Hillary Clinton aide quoted in David Remnick’s “The Ridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama,” if the media had run the Wright story just two months earlier, Obama’s candidacy “would have been over.”

“Everybody says Obama sat there for 20 years listening to the Rev. Wright spew his anti-white, anti-Jewish, anti-American tirade in church,” Klein says. “The fact of the matter is that his relationship with the Rev. Wright goes back further than his membership in the church and sitting and listening to the Rev. Wright.”

Klein says it was clear from his interview with Wright that he felt abandoned and stabbed in the back by Obama.

“For many, many years, Wright was Obama’s single most important intellectual and spiritual guide, and when things got rough, Obama threw him under the bus,” Klein says. “Wright was still stinging from that experience.”

IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE 

An Iranian Woman Refugee, Aynaz Anni Cyrus, Warns of Insidious Muslim Threat That Will Topple the U.S. Constitution.
Aynaz Anni Cyrus is a 31-year-old Iranian-born woman who rejected Islam and fled Iran to America legally in her teens. She came to the United States after years of persecution, torture, and imprisonment. She now lives as an American citizen. Anni wants everyone to know the truth behind the threat of Islam that is not being told. She says the Muslim leaders objective is to mainstream Islam and convert the United States to a Muslim country – period. There are people in power at the federal level who also want that. Anni’s information has been ignored by the mainstream media. Her insights are compelling, Anni Cyrus states the following:
• There is no such thing as a “moderate” Muslim. All Muslims are bound by the Quran to be called to Jihad and will kill when ordered to accomplish a Muslim conversion.
• ISIS is alive and well in the United States
• ISIS is not the only threat. The infiltration of Syrian refuges who are not fully vetted will expose the United States to random and recurrent acts of terrorism on our own soil. All Muslim followers should be subject to scrutiny.
President Obama is actually a Shiite Muslim and quotes messages from the Quran.
• The ultimate goal of real Muslims is to convert everyone to Islam. The United States as we know it will no longer exist. Freedom of religion would become a state-ordered religion of Islam.
• Muslims hold positions of power at the federal level and are silently influencing a gradual Muslim transition that will persecute non-Muslims, women, homosexuals, and anyone who is an “infidel.”
• This insidious, hidden threat cannot be handled with tolerance and passive disinterest. It will destroy American freedoms at their core. Change must be now.

Aynaz Anni Cyrus’ Background:

• Lashed a total of 109 times on different occasions.
• Imprisoned 12 times from age 9 to 14.
• Raped.
• Denied high school even though she rated “exceptional” on national intelligence tests and scholastic exams.
• Was not raised by her mother until the age of three because her mother was imprisoned While in prison her mother was tortured.
• Witnessed an adult inmate’s suicide attempt at the age of 11 while she was jailed at an adults prison
• Forced to marry an abusive man at a very young age who tortured, raped, and beat her. A judge refused to grant her a divorce.
• Anni witnessed her best friend being savagely sodomized by guards after she and Anni had been jailed for singing in public.

Anni wants everyone to know the truth about modern day Islam. She has a compelling message of what will happen in the United States if the Muslim threat is not curtailed.

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Affirmative Action Works

Affirmative Action works. Public opinion polls suggest that most Americans support affirmative action, especially when the polls avoid an all-or-none choice between affirmative action as it currently exists and no affirmative action whatsoever.

Say it loud, “I’m Black and I’m proud!“. Obama was the first Black President. And Obama is the first Affirmative Action President.

Many of America’s “Black Firsts” were allowed to become “Firsts” because of Affirmative Action. By any other name, it would be the same. Ability without opportunity is wasted. It is futile and unproductive to have a talent and never get the opportunity to use it for the benefit of humanity.

When many others are as qualified for a coveted position and a Black or other minority group person is chosen for the position, there is a strong possibility that Affirmative Action played a part in the selection. That is nothing to be ashamed of.

Jackie Robinson was the first Black professional major league baseball player. Jackie Robinson was an Affirmative Action Baby.

http://www.jackierobinson.com/

Thurgood Marshall was the first Black lawyer appointed to be an Associate Justice of the U S Supreme Court. President Lyndon Baines Johnson made Justice Marshall an Affirmative Action Baby.

http://www.biography.com/people/thurgood-marshall-9400241

Johnson claimed that the reason he did not run for another term as President was because he had lost all of his Southern Support because he appointed Marshall to the Supreme Court; as the Southern politicians said, “it was because he put his nigger on the Court”.

So, the escalation of the Viet Nam War had nothing to do with Johnson pulling out of the Presidential Race.

Wilt Chamberlain was an Affirmative Action Baby. Chamberlain and Bill Russell were the First Black superstar NBA Basketball players.

http://www.nba.com/history/players/chamberlain_summary.html

Wilt was a pretty good student. He was capable of a gentlemanly “C”, as was said about President John F. Kennedy.

I was an Affirmative Action Baby.

Like Wilt, I was capable of a gentlemanly “C”, but I got mostly A’s and B’s.

http://www.powells.com/biblio/9781155406800

I was the beneficiary of a program designed to redress the effects of past discrimination. So were Jackie Robinson, Wilt Chamberlain, Constance Baker Motley, Spottswood Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Eric Holder, and President Barack Obama; and so are many Americans of African descent who were pioneers in their fields.

http://www.understandingprejudice.org/readroom/articles/affirm.htm

Job discrimination is grounded in prejudice and exclusion, whereas affirmative action is an effort to overcome prejudicial treatment through inclusion. The most effective way to cure society of exclusionary practices is to make special efforts at inclusion, which is exactly what affirmative action does. The logic of affirmative action is no different than the logic of treating a nutritional deficiency with vitamin supplements. For a healthy person, high doses of vitamin supplements may be unnecessary or even harmful, but for a person whose system is out of balance, supplements are an efficient way to restore the body’s balance.

Some may take umbrage or offense at my use of the term because it has become so politically charged and may not be politically correct; however, Affirmative Action works. It is easier to implement than Reparations.

Affirmative Action allows America to make a partial down-payment on a debt owed to the children of the builders of America. To many it is a dirty word or two, but Reparations would not sound as sweet. Germany paid the Jews; America paid the Japanese; and America will have to pay the children of the African slaves who built America’s wealth, if Affirmative Action is abandoned. How else will we make up for past discrimination against African Americans?

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ObamaCare Rollout A Disaster

Obamacare Rollout Is A Disaster  And An Embarrassment

American presidents are used to deference and barking orders — not wiping egg from their faces.

So it was unpalatable for President Barack Obama to go on television Monday and admit glaring failures in the rollout of the health care law that bears his name.

Website snafus that have slowed sign ups to Obamacare in the three weeks since its launch are embarrassing on multiple fronts for the White House and represent a ballooning political challenge.

The Obama machine has always prided itself on efficiency and a “no drama” approach, and made great play of the governing debacles — including Hurricane Katrina — of the George W. Bush administration.

The idea that government can work is also at the center of Obama’s political creed — and is a driving motivator of his ideological clash with Republicans. So any evidence to the contrary is inconvenient to say the least.

But the faulty debut of the Healthcare.gov website is spurring questions over Obama’s competence in implementing a law he wagered his presidency to pass three years ago, but which has yet to deliver a political payoff.

The Washington Post reported late Monday that in a test a few days days before the web site was to be launched, the system crashed in a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to sign on simultaneously.

The web site went live October 1 anyway, and seized up shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users tried to complete the first step for buying health care insurance, the Post said. It quoted two people familiar with the project.

The embarrassment is even more acute since Obama built his career on exploiting the power of the Internet to build a political movement and woo Americans over the heads of the news media.

The Obamacare storm was building for days, but was obscured by the furor over a just avoided debt default and a government shutdown. The White House however sensed the row was about to break through, and over the weekend made clear Obama would address the website glitches head on.

“There’s no sugarcoating it,” the president said, bemoaning the website’s faults.

“I think it’s fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am.”

But his appearance on a crisp fall day in the White House Rose Garden was less a mea culpa than a sales job.

“The product is good,” Obama insisted, apparently worried that bad reviews of the website would sour Americans even further on Obamacare — which polls show has a poor image.

The botched rollout, which Obama described as being plagued by “kinks“, offered an opening to Republicans stung by coming off second best in the shutdown drama.

House Speaker John Boehner, who has long blasted Obamacare as a “train wreck” wove a wider parable of supposed failures encompassing the whole of Obamacare, which targets 40 million Americans without health insurance.

“What the president offered today was little more than self-congratulation,” Boehner said.

“Either the president doesn’t grasp the scale of the law’s failures or he doesn’t believe Americans deserve straight answers.”

Obama however argued the law is “more than a website” and noted popular provisions including the prohibition on insurance firms denying coverage to someone with a pre-existing health condition.

The Department of Health and Human Services has ordered a “surge” of technology experts to repair the website and says Americans can also register by phone.

But it still will not say how many people have secured insurance through the new law.

How badly Obama and his signature domestic achievement are damaged may depend on how quickly the fixes work.

If problems linger, Obama will face mounting calls to delay the mandate for all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine equivalent to one percent of their income. This is due to come into force next year.

There is also a growing drumbeat for the head of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — though White House aides privately say her job is safe, blaming contractors, not administration officials, for the problems.

Top aides to Obama have long believed that once more Americans see the results of Obamacare in action, the law would become more popular. But such hopes may not survive days of stories over its botched debut.

“Every day that there are problems with the Obamacare website is going to be a day where the Republicans say this is Obamacare writ large,” said Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.

“If it is something that lingers for months that is a big problem. It will feed into a public perception that it won’t work.”

To work, Obamacare must attract droves of healthy, young people — who typically are the most loath to buy health insurance — to sign up to subsidize the risk posed by older, sicker, consumers. So anything that deters them from taking the plunge could be disastrous for the law.

With that in mind, and given the centrality of Obamacare to the president’s political identity, many experts are baffled at the mess.

“That they didn’t seem to have this better prepared for the rollout on October 1 goes beyond me being surprised,” said Daniel Sledge, a professor and health care specialist at the University of Texas.

(Business Insider, Collinson, S., Oct. 22, 2013)

“A broken website imperils the largest expansion of the American safety net since the Great Society.

“More than two weeks into the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov, the website created by President Barack Obama’s health care reform law still isn’t working right….But the administration won’t disclose exactly what’s wrong with the health insurance exchange website, or when consumers can expect to see the promise of convenient, one-stop shopping for health benefits and financial assistance fulfilled.”

That’s not from some right-wing website. It’s the Huffington Post, whose home page is usually plastered with pro-administration headlines.

I think we have to stop using the word “glitches” to describe what’s going on. This is far more serious than too many people at the outset crashing the site.

This is a meltdown of the first order that really does threaten the president’s signature priority. If the problems are ironed out and millions sign up for the federal exchanges, this period will just be an unpleasant interlude. But at this point, administration officials don’t seem to have a handle on the magnitude of the debacle.

The president used the G-word, telling KCCI-TV in Des Moines that the rollout has had “way more glitches than I think are acceptable.” But it’s much deeper than that. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

“Insurers say the federal health-care marketplace is generating flawed data that is straining their ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have gotten through so far, in a sign that technological problems extend further than the website traffic and software issues already identified.

“Emerging errors include duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspect eligibility determinations, say executives at more than a dozen health plans. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska said it had to hire temporary workers to contact new customers directly to resolve inaccuracies in submissions. Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans.”

Robert Gibbs nailed it when he said on MSNBC that this was a huge embarrassment and that some people should be fired. When Gibbs was hired as a network commentator, I wondered whether he would merely be a flack for his former boss.

So a tip of the hat to the former White House press secretary. Other liberals at MSNBC, such as the Washington Post’s Gene Robinson, are also saying the rollout is a mess.

Many conservatives are rooting for ObamaCare to fail. Some states with GOP governors are not cooperating with the program. But what has happened since the rollout falls squarely in the category of self-inflicted wound—and may be accomplishing what Ted Cruz could not.

Sebelius Siblings

When your job is secure, it seems to me, you don’t go trotting out your brother and sister to defend you.

In the wake of the disastrous ObamaCare rollout, I don’t know how the siblings of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius came to be quoted by the New York Times.

But with the White House proclaiming “full confidence” in her, their response to calls for her to step down suggested she was taking no chances:

“In an interview, Ms. Sebelius’s older brother, Donald D. Gilligan, said, ‘I don’t think you resign in the middle of a fight…The fact that people are calling for her head does not surprise her or alarm her particularly.’…

“The secretary’s sister, Ellen M. Gilligan, said, ‘To my knowledge, she is not going to resign,’ despite the ‘wishful thinking’ of some Republicans.”

Well, the Sebelius family is certainly behind her.

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Dr Ben Carson Targeted By IRS After Prayer Breakfast Speech

Ben Carson

Ben Carson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Freedom of Speech isn’t Free. It  is not free from intimidation or retaliation. Sometimes silence may be golden and more peaceful.

If you are an educated, critical thinker and of a different opinion concerning the current political hot topic, you may want to think twice before voicing your opinion. You may find it is true that no good deed or opinion goes unpunished.

If you think that ObamaScare is a train wreck, or that the Democrats or the Republicans are more responsible for the Government slowdown, or that the NSA spies on American citizens, or that Cadet Webster Smith was a victim of racial bias, you might want to hold your tongue; or, at least, think twice of the possible adverse consequences to you personally before making your opinion known. Discretion may be the better part of valor; and silence may be golden. Your silence may allow you to keep a greater portion of your hard-earned gold, because the IRS is alive and well and going to and fro like a roaring lion seeking which First Amendment free thinker it may devour.

 

Tea party groups, Reverend Franklin Graham, Christine O’Donnell, and a pro-marriage group have all discovered that the price of free speech in today’s society is an audit of your personal finances by the IRS. And now Dr. Ben Carson has made the “List”.

The list of conservatives targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for audits, tax-exempt reviews or tax privacy breaches keeps growing, raising fresh questions in Washington about whether a scandal the Obama administration has blamed on bureaucratic incompetence and coincidence may in fact involve something more nefarious.

The latest revelation came Thursday from Dr. Carson, the renowned neurosurgeon who told The Washington Times that he was targeted for an audit just months after he gave a speech in front of President Obama that challenged America’s leadership. The agency requested to review his real estate holdings and then conducted a full audit.In the end, the IRS found no wrongdoing, Dr. Carson said, but it raised his suspicions about being singled out for his speech.

“I guess it could be a coincidence, but I never had been audited before and never really had any encounters with the IRS,” Dr. Carson said in an interview. “But it certainly would make one suspicious because we know now the IRS has been used for political purposes and therefore actions like this come under suspicion.”

Melanie Sloan, head of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and a former Justice Department prosecutor during the Clinton years, said she had not been that concerned about the IRS reviews of the growing number of tea party groups but the story of Dr. Carson’s audit raised red flags.

“I have not been particularly persuaded in the past with the IRS targeting of the tea party groups. But this one seems a little odd. This certainly raises questions that I assume someone will begin to investigate,” she said.

Dr. Carson, whose rise from poverty and medical work with pediatric patients were celebrated in the movie “Gifted Hands,” is the latest in a growing number of high-profile figures to come forward and

The Rev. Franklin Graham and others have said either they or their organizations were singled out by the IRS, while former Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell said she was audited and that someone used the IRS system to access her private tax information.On Wednesday, the National Organization for Marriage announced that it would sue the IRS, saying it has evidence that someone within the agency leaked the group’s donor list to its political enemies in 2012.

As in the other instances, the organization claims no one at the IRS has been held responsible.

Calls to the IRS went unanswered Thursday. Much of the agency’s staff has been furloughed as a result of the federal government shutdown.

In the past, the IRS has declined to discuss specific audits, citing privacy laws. Such instances typically come to light only when individuals or businesses divulge that they’ve been targeted.

That was what happened this week. During a speech in Alabama, Dr. Carson made a vague reference to having his first “encounter with the IRS.”

The encounter came just four months after his speech in February at the National Prayer Breakfast, an address that brought him into the national spotlight and one in which he decried the “moral decay and fiscal irresponsibility” of the U.S. in recent years.

Since then, he has electrified the conservative world and fueled talk of a presidential run with speeches and other works, including his weekly column for The Times.

Dr. Carson said IRS agents contacted him in June and asked to look at his real estate holdings. After finding nothing that concerned them, the agents informed him that they were conducting a full audit of his finances and asked to go back an additional year to review his records, he said.

They ended the review in August after finding no problems.

“They told me everything was in good standing and left,” Dr. Carson said.

Asked whether he thought the audit was a retaliation for his speech, Dr. Carson quipped: “I guess I’m surprised it took them that long.”

He said the more serious issue is that the IRS has been politicized — “something that never should have happened” — and that leaves all of its activities open to suspicion.

 

Indeed, Dr. Carson isn’t the first high-profile conservative figure to come under fire from the IRS.

Earlier this year, Ms. O’Donnell — a former Senate candidate from Delaware who rose to prominence amid heavy tea party backing — revealed to The Times that she, too, had been audited and also had her personal tax information breached.

Ms. O’Donnell’s tax records were accessed by David Smith, an investigator with Delaware’s Division of Revenue.

Revelations about that access, which took place in March 2010, spawned an inquiry by the U.S. Treasury Department and denials by Delaware officials that anything inappropriate had taken place.

It also has spawned a congressional investigation spearheaded by Sen. Chuck Grassley, a powerful Iowa Republican.

Ms. O’Donnell’s story, which also includes an erroneous lien placed on a home she no longer owned, broke just as the IRS inspector general acknowledged that at least four politicians or political donors have had their personal tax records improperly accessed since 2006. One of those cases involved a willful violation of federal law.

The Justice Department has declined to prosecute any of the cases.

Also this year, Mr. Graham, son of legendary evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, wrote a letter to Mr. Obama in which he accused the IRS of targeting two of his nonprofit organization for political purposes.

Mr. Graham heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, a worldwide relief group.

 

In his letter, Mr. Graham said he believes “someone in the administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us.”

(Solomon, John and Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times, 4 Oct 2013)

 

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Obama’s Comments On Military Sex Abuse Constitute “Undue Command Influence”

Two defendants in military sexual assault cases cannot be punitively discharged, if found guilty, because of “unlawful command influence” derived from comments made by President Barack Obama, a judge ruled in a Hawaii military court week of June 10.

Navy Judge CDR. Marcus Fulton ruled during pretrial hearings in two sexual assault cases — U.S. vs. Johnson and U.S. vs. Fuentes — that comments made by Obama as commander in chief would unduly influence any potential sentencing, according to a court documents obtained by Stars and Stripes.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Fulton approved the pretrial defense motions, which used as evidence comments that Obama made about sexual assault at a May 7 news conference.

The judge’s pretrial ruling means that if either defendant is found guilty, whether by a jury or a military judge, they cannot receive a bad conduct discharge or a dishonorable discharge. Sailors found guilty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s Article 120, which covers several sexual crimes including assault and rape, generally receive punitive discharges.

“A member of the public would not hear the President’s statement to be a simple admonition to hold members accountable,” Fulton stated. “A member of the public would draw the connection between the ‘dishonorable discharge’ required by the President and a punitive discharge approved by the convening authority.

“The strain on the system created by asking a convening authority to disregard [Obama’s] statement in this environment would be too much to sustain public confidence.”

The ruling sets the stage for defense attorneys to use the same arguments in sexual assault cases throughout the military.

Should other judges accept the same line of reasoning, commands would have to consider issuing lesser administrative discharges to servicemembers found guilty of sexual assault. In some cases, this could allow servicemembers found guilty of sex crimes to retain veterans benefits, according to Defense Department regulations.

“I think that as a defense attorney, I would raise this argument in virtually any [sexual assault] case I had,” said Victor Hansen, vice president of the National Institute of Military Justice and former instructor at the Army’s JAG school.

 

President Barack Obama said that he has “no tolerance” for sexual assault in the military, comments made in the wake of a new Pentagon report showing the instances of such crimes have spiked since 2010.

The president said he had spoken today with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to urge him to “exponentially step up” efforts to identify suspects in assaults, and aggressively prosecute those cases.

“The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this,” Obama said at a press conference following his meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

‘I expect consequences,” Obama added. “So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable – prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

(…)

“For those who are in uniform who’ve experience sexual assault, I want them to hear directly from their commander in chief that I’ve got their backs,” the president said. “I will support them. And we’re not going to tolerate this stuff, and there will be accountability.”

What constitutes “undue command influence” is, at least in part, established by Article 37 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice:

(a) No authority convening a general, special, or summary court-martial, nor any other commanding officer, may censure, reprimand, or admonish the court or any member, military judge, or counsel thereof, with respect to the findings or sentence adjudged by the court, or with respect to any other exercises of its or his functions in the conduct of the proceedings. No person subject to this chapter may attempt to coerce or, by any unauthorized means, influence the action of a court-martial or any other military tribunal or any member thereof, in reaching the findings or sentence in any case, or the action of any convening, approving, or reviewing authority with respect to his judicial acts. The foregoing provisions of the subsection shall not apply with respect to (1) general instructional or informational courses in military justice if such courses are designed solely for the purpose of instructing members of a command in the substantive and procedural aspects of courts-martial, or (2) to statements and instructions given in open court by the military judge, president of a special court-martial, or counsel.

The operative question here is whether the comments by President Obama and others in the chain of command, which based on how they are set forth in the opinion seem to be little more than generalized statements about the need for increased vigilance against sexual assault in the military constitute an attempt to “coerce or, by any unauthorized means, influence the action of a court-martial or any other military tribunal or any member thereof, in reaching the findings or sentence in any case, or the action of any convening, approving, or reviewing authority with respect to his judicial acts.”  In his ruling, the presiding Judge found that there was sufficient reason to believe that the President’s insistence that members of the military who have engaged in sexual assault should be “prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged” constituted at least potential undue influence over the sentencing phase of the hearing in the case before him. Consequently, he ruled that if the Defendant is convicted, the military jury would not be able to impose a dishonorable discharge or similar punishing upon him. As noted above, this would potentially mean that the Defendant would remain fully eligible for all veterans benefits despite having been convicted of a crime while in the military.

I don’t have the expertise in military criminal law to comment on the Judge’s decision here, however the immediate consequences of his ruling. Defense attorneys representing members of the military facing similar charges will without a doubt file similar motions in the cases they are involved in, and we’re likely to get contradictory rulings on the matter from the presiding Judges in each of those cases. Additionally, the ruling in these cases will likely end up being appealed, likely before the trial actually starts. As for the President’s statement itself, I can’t help but think that the Judge got it wrong here. On it’s face, what the President said struck me as a general, benign, statement regarding future policy and the message that the Commander in Chief wishes the military to take the issue of sexual assault far more seriously than it has been. Is that “undue command influence?” As I said, I’m not an expert in this area so I’ll leave that to others, but it does feel to me like the Judge went a little over the top here. I suppose we can be grateful that he didn’t dismiss the cases completely.

On a general level, though, this case does point out the importance of the White House in general, and the President specifically, not getting involved in criminal investigations and prosecutions that occur under his watch, whether in the civilian or military spheres. Recently, for example, the White House has been criticized for not commenting directly on the Justice Department’s investigation of leaks that includes pursuing information from journalists using subpoenas and search warrants. There has also been a lot of criticism directed at the White House from the right for it failure to officially designating the November 2009 Ford Hood massacre as a terrorist act, and that Major Nidal Hasan continues to receive his military pay while awaiting trial on those charges. In both cases, the White House has pointedly refused to comment on the cases at hand, and that was entirely the appropriate reaction. Specific comments from the President regarding guilt or innocence of a Defendant would be highly inappropriate and would likely result in defense attorneys moving for mistrials at any criminal proceeding. The comments the President made here, of course, were not about a specific  case, but this ruling is a pretty good reminder of what could happen if Presidents started bending to the demands of reporters or political opponents that they make comment on such matters.

 

Categories: Military Justice | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The King Is Dead. Long Live The King.

The King of Africa is dead. Muammar Gaddafi was the de facto King of Africa.

In the aftermath of his death, some are wondering whether the late Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi will be remembered as a martyr instead of a tyrant. Some have pointed to the free health care and subsidized housing in Libya as evidence of Gadhafi’s compassion, as well as his financial support of other African nations. “Mr. Gaddafi was a dictator, but he was a benevolent dictator, whether you like or dislike him,” said French journalist and blogger Moe Seager. “And he gave millions to black African health, educational and agricultural projects.”

Gaddafi Is Now A Martyr. Gaddafi died at the hands of an angry mob aided by a French air strike on 20 October 2011 during the Battle of Sirte . It was a shameful spectacle. There is no law and no order in Libya. Shame on the opposition National Transitional Council (NTC). It was a lynch mob. Gaddafi was captured alive. He deserved a trial. Such barbarism is ample evidence of how far man has progressed in his attempt to civilize himself. God help us.

Gaddafi was trying to flee the city in a convoy of cars when they came under attack from NATO jets. The French claimed responsibility for the airstrike. Charred remains of 15 pickup trucks lay burned out on a roadside where Gaddafi’s convoy had attempted to punch through NTC lines. Inside the ruined vehicles sat the charred skeletons.

Unlike Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who was hanged, Gaddafi died on his feet, standing up and fighting back.

“While he was being taken away, they beat him and then they killed him,” a senior source in the NTC told Reuters news agency. “He might have been resisting.”

Officials said Gaddafi’s son Mo’tassim, also seen bleeding but alive, had also died. Another son, heir-apparent Saif al-Islam, was variously reported to be surrounded, captured or killed as conflicting accounts of the day’s events crackled around networks of NTC fighters rejoicing in Sirte.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, spearheaded the Franco-British move in NATO to back the revolt against Gaddafi.

Shortly before dawn prayers on Thursday, Gaddafi, surrounded by a few dozen loyal bodyguards and accompanied by the head of his now non-existent army Abu Bakr Younis Jabr, broke out of the two-month siege of Sirte and made a break for the west.

But they did not get far.

NATO said its warplanes fired on a convoy near Sirte about 8:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. ET), striking two military vehicles in the group, but could not confirm that Gaddafi had been a passenger. France later said its jets had halted the convoy, which was comprised of some 80 vehicles.

By averting a possible dispute in Libya and internationally about where to try him, and denying him a final platform for his trademark lengthy speeches, the summary killing on a desert road is very troubling and unworthy of great powers.

“Gaddafi is now a martyr and thus can become the rallying point for irredentist or tribal violence — perhaps not in the immediate future but in the medium-to-long term,” said George Joffe, a north Africa expert at Cambridge University.

“The fact that NATO can be blamed for his death is worrying, in terms of regional support, and may undermine the legitimacy of the National Transitional Council.”

At the end his so-called friends and allies of convenience deserted him, like Jesus’ disciples and friends before his crucifixion.

The death of Gaddafi is a setback to campaigners seeking the full truth about the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland of Pan Am flight 103 which claimed 270 lives, mainly Americans, and for which one of Gaddafi’s agents was convicted.

Gaddafi loved his green stick.

In the end all of his friends deserted him. US President Barack Obama (R) and Libyan Leader Moamer Kadhafi shake hands during the Group of Eight (G8) summit in L’Aquila, central Italy, on July 9, 2009.

Group of Eight leaders grappled at a summit in Italy with reining in unprecedented government support for their economies as divergences emerged over whether their economies were ready.

Gaddafi at the G8-SUMMIT was with them but not of them. (AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images) AFP/Getty Images)

It’s easy for most of us to take for granted that Gadhafi was an international criminal whose multitude of vicious sins had finally caught up to him. But it’s interesting to note that not all Americans subscribe to that view.

And so, the question lingers: Was Gadhafi a misunderstood revolutionary or a cruel tyrant? Many will say the latter, but your answer most likely depends on your personal view of the media, international relations, and America’s role in the world.

Numerous organizations including the United Nations, the U.S. and UK governments have called for an investigation of the exact circumstances of Gaddafi’s death, amid concerns that it may have been an extrajudicial killing and a war crime.

The UN Human Rights Office spokesperson said that he expects the UN commission already investigating potential human rights abuse in Libya would look into the case. Waheed Burshan, a member of  the opposition National Transitional Council (NTC), said that an investigation should happen.

On 24 October 2011, the NTC announced that it had ordered an investigation in response to the international calls and that it would prosecute the killers if the investigation showed he died after his capture.

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Who Will President Obama Select To Be The New Commissioner Of The Social Security Administration?

Michael Astrue

Michael J. Astrue was sworn in as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) on February 12, 2007 for a six-year term that expires on January 19, 2013. President Barack Obama is expected to soon nominate a new Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Astrue was appointed by President George W. Bush. The White House is silent about who will take the helm at SSA.  The SSA faces voluminous backlogs and claimants may have to wait up to 5 years just to get a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Some extreme cases have taken more than 10 years from the date of filing a claim to get a final decision on whether they are entitled to disability retirement benefits.

Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue’s six-year term expires January 19, 2013. His successor must be confirmed by the Senate, in a process that Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, expects will take a couple of months from the hearings to a vote.

Michael Astrue was still Commissioner of Social Security on 25 January. His term ran out on January 19 but the Social Security Act says he can stay in his job until a successor is confirmed. He hasn’t resigned so he’s still Commissioner. The same is true for Deputy Commissioner Carolyn Colvin. The rumor had been that Astrue did not intend to stay on after his term ended.  So far, he’s proving that rumor wrong. Astrue does seem to be clearing items off his desk. Take a look at what he just sent over to the Office of Management and Budget. I wonder if he’s planning to send over his version of new mental impairment listings before leaving.

The SSA has more than 11,000 employees at its headquarters in Woodlawn, Maryland. It provides benefits to retirees, disabled Americans and the children of deceased workers. The SSA paid more than $778,000,000,000 (that is billion) in benefits to 56 million people. The SSA’s budget rivals that of the Department Of Defense.

Carolyn Colvin is Astrue’s Deputy, but she is not considered to be a serious contender to replace him. She was confirmed by the Senate two years ago. Her term also expires January 19, 2013. She is a former secretary of the state Department of Human Resources and served as special assistant to Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation.

One possibility that comes to mind is that there will never be an announcement of an Obama nominee for Commissioner of Social Security. Astrue will leave the job in the near future and Carolyn Colvin will become the Acting Commissioner for the rest of Obama’s term as President. Colvin as Acting Commissioner, unlike Astrue and unlike a nominated and confirmed Commissioner of Social Security, would be serving at the President’s will. If Colvin displeased the President, she could be removed from the job by Obama nominating and the Senate confirming a Commissioner. I think it is more than possible that the President has had his fill of an independent Social Security Commissioner and wants someone who is truly on his team. I have no inside information. This is just my speculation. Of course, this can’t happen if Astrue keeps hanging around.

(BIOGRAPHY of Catolyn Colvin)

QUOTE: On February 14, 2013, Carolyn W. Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security.  Prior to this designation, she served as the Deputy Commissioner, having been confirmed by the United States Senate on December 22, 2010 as President Obama’s nominee.  In addition to her role as the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Ms. Colvin serves as a Trustee to the Social Security Board of Trustees.

Throughout her career, Ms. Colvin has managed programs that help people with their healthcare and financial needs.  She previously held key executive positions at Social Security Headquarters: Deputy Commissioner for Policy and External Affairs (1994–1996), Deputy Commissioner for Programs and Policy (1996–1998), and Deputy Commissioner for Operations (1998–2001).

Prior to returning to SSA, Ms. Colvin was the Director of Human Services for the District of Columbia (2001-2003); the Director of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (2003-2007); the Chief Executive Officer of AMERIGROUP Community Care of the District of Columbia (2007–2008); and, the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Transportation (2009-2011).  In addition, Ms. Colvin served as the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Human Resources (1989-1994).

Ms. Colvin has received numerous awards and recognition for her managerial expertise and creativity, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women Award from the Daily Record (2005) and the Women of Achievement Award from Suburban Maryland Business and Professional Women (2005).  She has served on a variety of boards and commissions, including the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Ms. Colvin earned her graduate and undergraduate degrees in business administration from Morgan State University.  Additionally, she completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University, the Maryland Leadership Program, and the Greater Baltimore Leadership Program. Ms. Colvin is from Maryland and currently resides in Anne Arundel County.  She has one son and six grandchildren. UNQUOTE.

Nancy Altman, who helps lead two Social Security advocacy groups, has emerged as a potential contender. She has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO and the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ), a network of 1,400 ALJs who decide disability insurance claims. The endorsement of the AALJ is the kiss of death; so, she cannot really be considered a serious contender for the job.

Nevertheless, Judge Randall Frye, president of the AALJ, has  said the AALJ is backing Ms. Altman for Commissioner because of her expertise.

For her part, Ms. Altman has said “My goal would be to restore confidence in the agency and to let the workforce know how appreciative I am and the American people are for the work that is being done.”

One of the major challenges the next commissioner will confront is building administrative support to decrease the long backlogs in the disability insurance program. This is something that Commissioner Astrue was not able to accomplish despite all of the ALJs he was allowed to place on the federal pay roll and the increase in budget that he was granted. The new Commissioner will also be challenged to improve the quality of service that SSA employees are reputed to provide to the public.  Case workers and administrative staff members at SSA are notorious for their abrupt manners and surly attitudes resulting in a low level of public service. The Agency will be challenged to provide a higher level of service.

Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, was noted to remark that “This is an opportunity at the Social Security Administration to really take it to the next level, and it’s important to make sure it has the resources it needs”.

James Robinson Jr.

My choice for the next Commissioner is something of a dark horse. He is James Roosevelt Jr. He is a Health Care Insurance man and considering the controversy surrounding the implementation of ObamaCare, he would be a natural choice for President Obama for his 2nd term.

President Obama’s reelection lifted much of the cloud that hung over the health care industry in Massachusetts, where caregivers and insurers anticipated a push to repeal the national health care overhaul if Mitt Romney had become president. But Romney was not elected.

“This outcome provides an opportunity for greater cooperation and less contention,” said James Roosevelt Jr., chief executive of Tufts Health Plan.

But health care organizations are still seeking clarity on many features of ObamaCare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, many of which have not yet taken effect. The federal overhaul includes regulations requiring insurers to invest in new technology and funds for expanding Medicaid and revamping Medicare payments as the states press forward with their own efforts to rein in costs and build more integrated health care networks.

Obama’s victory “removes a layer of uncertainty for health plans, providers, and employers,” said Andrew Dreyfus, chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest health insurer.

In 2012 James Robinson Jr wrote an op-ed with Robert L. Reynolds, a Republican and CEO of Putnam Investments,  where he advocates raising the Social Security retirement age at a brisker pace and cutting back the growth of benefits with a different Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Robinson wrote “.. we should accelerate the rise in Social Security’s full-benefit retirement age from age 67 to 68 by 2030 and then index the full benefit age for future generations to gains in longevity. Life expectancy past age 65 has risen nearly 50 percent since 1940, when Social Security first began regular monthly payments. That said, we should improve disability options for those engaged in physically demanding jobs. No one expects coal miners or telephone line crews to work into their late 60s.”

He went further to say “On the benefits side, we should change the way we calculate the cost-of-living adjustment for all beneficiaries, by utilizing a revised Consumer Price Index which most economists agree more accurately reflects the rate of inflation for the expenses most seniors incur. Such a change would curb the rate of increase in benefits for future generations of retirees […]”

Considering President Obama’s attitude and behavior with respect to the “Fiscal Cliff” negotiations I am betting he will select James Robinson Jr to be the next Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

This just in from former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

The press and public have understandably focused in recent weeks on high-profile appointments such as the secretaries of state, defense and treasury as President Barack Obama builds his second-term team. They also should pay close attention to the search for a man or woman to serve as commissioner of the Social Security Administration — a post central to the national welfare and, with a six-year term, an appointment that will continue into the next presidency.

The Social Security Administration, headquartered just outside Baltimore in Woodlawn, touches the lives and pocketbooks of nearly every American. With this cornerstone of our social compact under demographic pressure and political threat, the president’s choice for a successor is vitally important.

Washington is a land of partisan extremes these days, a place where compromise is an orphan and dealmakers are a rare sight. Inevitably, Social Security will again be a political football as Congress attempts to manage America’s fiscal challenges. As a veteran of more than a few policy debates and political fights — some of which didn’t end the way I’d have liked — I want suggest what I think are key job requirements for the new commissioner:

•The nominee should bring substantial managerial experience. The Social Security Administration has roughly 62,000 employees. The agency processes payments of $4.5 billion to 6 million recipients every month. It needs a strong CEO capable of running a large and complex organization that does high-stakes work.

•The nominee should bring considerable policy expertise. For more than 20 years, actuaries have battled, often very publicly, over the viability of Social Security’s funding mechanism. It would be profoundly foolish today to ignore the demographic challenges the retirement of baby boomers will pose to the system. The remedy should not be a Band-Aid, but structural reform for the long haul.

The next commissioner, unlike some predecessors, should bring to the job a detailed historical knowledge of Social Security — of decisions that have made the system stronger and of others that have weakened it.

•Diplomatic skills will be essential. The commissioner of Social Security will need to deal not only with criticism from his or her natural political opponents but also with substantial pressure from natural allies. A commissioner perceived as a zealot or out of touch with the private sector will have a hard time advancing arguments for a new structure of benefits or changes to Social Security’s long term funding.

•The commissioner of Social Security needs considerable fortitude. One of the most important aspects of the job is appearing before Congress (approximately four times a year, though the frequency can shift). For at least the next two years, that will mean confronting a Republican-controlled Congress whose leadership lives in fear of tea partiers whose rhetoric would suggest they’d like to see Social Security dismantled altogether. The next commissioner of Social Security will need the strength of will and command of facts necessary to stand toe-to-toe with well-prepared congressional foes.

•Finally, the next commissioner will have to be someone passionately dedicated to the principles that underlie the Social Security system and eloquent in articulating those principles.

The vast majority of Americans want a fair system that offers dignity to the elderly while preserving economic opportunity for current and future workers. They deserve a commissioner who can ensure Social Security operates properly, provide a vision for its long-term future and lead the fight to preserve it from political critics or demographic threats.

(Bill Bradley)

Categories: Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Rats Deserting A Sinking Ship

English: A March 2009 meeting of the United St...

English: A March 2009 meeting of the United States National Security Council. President Barack Obama at a NSC Meeting in the Situation Room. Participants include Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright, DNI Dennis Blair, White House Counsel Greg Craig, CIA Director Leon Panetta, Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, NSC Advisor Gen. James “Jim” Jones, and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rats Deserting A Sinking Ship
by London Steverson on Friday, November 9, 2012 at 8:33pm ·

David Petraeus, the man at the helm of the CAI, the nation’s largest intelligence agency, stepped down as director on Friday 9 November 2012, saying he had an extramarital affair.

The resignation comes at a difficult time for the agency and Obama administration, which has been under intense scrutiny from Republican lawmakers for the September attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans — including the Ambassador Christopher Stevens and two CIA contractors — dead. Petraeus and other top U.S. intelligence officials were scheduled to speak next week at a closed-door session of the Senate Intelligence Committee about the Benghazi incident.

His reputation was potentially tarnished by the controversy over the terror attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in September.

Some Republicans have privately said they were disappointed in Petraeus for sticking as long as he did to the initial intelligence assessment that the attack erupted from a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam video on the Web.

For many weeks the White House had come under intense pressure for the attack, before it finally emerged that the CIA had actually played a central role in the episode. Two of the Americans killed were identified as undercover agents for the CIA, and the vast majority of Americans on the ground that night turned out to be with the agency.

In a Wall Street Journal article a week before the election, several administration officials pointed to Petraeus specifically and accused him of mishandling the controversy, by appearing to be aloof and delivering misinformation to the White House in the early days after that attacks.

Congress intends to continue to investigate the incident.

Petraeus was expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week on the Benghazi attack.

Petraeus took over as head of the CIA in September of 2011 following his tour as head of allied forces in Afghanistan.

His sudden resignation came as a surprise, just days after President Barack Obama won a second term.

The resignation comes at a sensitive time. The administration and the CIA have struggled to defend security and intelligence lapses before the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others. It was an issue during the presidential campaign that ended with Obama’s re-election Tuesday 6 November.

The CIA has come under intense scrutiny for providing the White House and other administration officials with talking points that led them to say the Benghazi attack was a result of a film protest, not a militant terror attack. It has become clear that the CIA was aware the attack was distinct from the film protests roiling across other parts of the Muslim world.

The CIA director’s bombshell took former military colleagues by surprise.

In addition to Petraeus, two other top-level administration officials, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, are also expected to soon leave the Obama administration.

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday 8 November he’s also weighing whether he will remain for Obama’s second term.

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, lauded Petraeus as a “true American patriot.”

Petraeus and his wife, Holly, live in Virginia. They have two grown children.

Here is the full text of Petraeus’ letter:

HEADQUARTERS Central Intelligence Agency

9 November 2012

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA.  After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair.  Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.  This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.

As I depart Langley, I want you to know that it has been the greatest of privileges to have served with you, the officers of our Nation’s Silent Service, a work force that is truly exceptional in every regard.  Indeed, you did extraordinary work on a host of critical missions during my time as director, and I am deeply grateful to you for that.

Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life’s greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing.  I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end.

Thank you for your extraordinary service to our country, and best wishes for continued success in the important endeavors that lie ahead for our country and our Agency.

With admiration and appreciation,

David H. Petraeus

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Changes To Social Security In 2013.

Modern Social Security card.

Modern Social Security card. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Social Security recipients will get slightly bigger checks in 2013. The Social Security Administration announced several ways the program will be changed in the coming year. Here are a few Social Security changes workers and retirees can expect in 2013:

Bigger monthly payments.

Social Security payments will increase by 1.7 percent in 2013. That’s considerably less than the 3.6 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) retirees received in 2012. Social Security payments are adjusted each year to reflect inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. Previous inflation adjustments have ranged from zero in 2010 and 2011 to 14.3 percent in 1980. The average Social Security check is expected to increase by $21 as a result of the change from $1,240 before the COLA to $1,261 after. Couples will see their benefit payments grow from an average of $2,014 to $2,048.

Payroll tax cut scheduled to expire.

Workers will pay 6.2 percent of their income into the Social Security system in 2013, up from 4.2 percent in 2012. The temporary payroll tax cut expires at the end of December 2012 under current law.

Higher Social Security tax cap.

The maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security taxes will be $113,700 in 2013, up from $110,100 in 2012. Approximately 10 million people will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum.

Increased earnings limit.

Retirees who work and collect Social Security benefits at the same time will be able to earn $480 more next year before any portion of their Social Security payment will be withheld. Social Security recipients who are younger than their full retirement age (66 for those born between 1943 and 1954) can earn up to $15,120 in 2013, after which $1 of every $2 earned will be temporarily withheld from their Social Security payments. For retirees who turn 66 in 2013, the limit will be $40,080, after which $1 of every $3 earned will be withheld. Once you turn your full retirement age you can earn any amount without penalty and collect Social Security benefits at the same time. At your full retirement age your monthly payments will also be adjusted to reflect any benefits that were withheld and your continued earnings.

Maximum possible benefit grows.

The maximum possible Social Security benefit for a worker who begins collecting benefits at their full retirement age will be $2,533 in 2013, up from $2,513 per month in 2012.

Paper checks will end.

The U.S. Treasury will stop mailing paper checks to Social Security beneficiaries on March 1, 2013. All federal benefit recipients must then receive their payments via direct deposit to a bank or credit union account or loaded onto a Direct Express Debit MasterCard. Retirees who do not choose an electronic payment option by March 1 will receive their payments loaded onto a pre-paid debit card. Most people already receive their benefit payments electronically, and new Social Security recipients have been required to choose an electronic payment option since 2011.

 

 

More than 56 million Social Security recipients will see their monthly payments go up by 1.7 percent next year.

The increase, which starts in January, is tied to a measure of inflation released Tuesday. It shows that inflation has been relatively low over the past year, despite the recent surge in gas prices, resulting in one of the smallest increases in Social Security payments since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975.

Social Security payments for retired workers average $1,237 a month, or about $14,800 a year. A 1.7 percent increase will amount to about $21 a month, or $252 a year, on average.

Social Security recipients received a 3.6 percent increase in benefits this year after getting none the previous two years.

About 8 million people who receive Supplemental Security Income will also receive the cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, meaning the announcement will affect about 1 in 5 U.S. residents.

Social Security also provides benefits to millions of disabled workers, spouses, widows, widowers and children.

“The annual COLA is critically important to the financial security of the (56) million Americans receiving Social Security benefits today,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president. “Amid rising costs for food, utilities and health care and continued economic uncertainty, the COLA helps millions of older Americans maintain their standard of living, keeping many out of poverty.”

The amount of wages subjected to Social Security taxes is going up, too. Social Security is supported by a 12.4 percent tax on wages up to $110,100. That threshold will increase to $113,700 next year, resulting in higher taxes for nearly 10 million workers and their employers, according to the Social Security Administration.

Half the tax is paid by workers and the other half is paid by employers. Congress and President Barack Obama reduced the share paid by workers from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for 2011 and 2012. The temporary cut, however, is due to expire at the end of the year.

Some of next year’s COLA could be wiped out by higher Medicare premiums, which are deducted from Social Security payments. The Medicare Part B premium, which covers doctor visits, is expected to rise by about $7 per month for 2013, according to government projections.

The premium is currently $99.90 a month for most seniors. Medicare is expected to announce the premium for 2013 in the coming weeks.

“If seniors are getting a low COLA, much of their increase will go to pay off their Medicare Part B premium,” said Mary Johnson, a policy analyst at The Senior Citizens League.

By law, the increase in benefits is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W, a broad measure of consumer prices generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It measures price changes for food, housing, clothing, transportation, energy, medical care, recreation and education.

Over the past year, housing costs have gone up 1.4 percent but home energy costs have dropped by 3.8 percent, according to the CPI-W. Medical costs, which tend to hit seniors harder than younger adults, have increased by 4.4 percent.

Gasoline prices have climbed by 6.8 percent, but much of that increase happened in the past month, so it is not fully reflected in the COLA for Social Security.

To calculate the COLA, the Social Security Administration compares the average price index for July, August and September with the price index for the same three months in the previous year. The price index for September — the final piece of the puzzle — was released Tuesday.

If consumer prices increase from year to year, Social Security recipients automatically get higher payments, starting the following January. If prices drop, the payments stay the same, as they did in 2010 and 2011.

Since 1975, the annual COLA has averaged 4.2 percent. Only five times has it been below 2 percent, including the two times it was zero. Before 1975, it took an act of Congress to increase Social Security payments.

Most older Americans rely on Social Security for a majority of their incomes, according to the Social Security Administration. Over the past decade, the COLA has helped increase incomes for seniors, even as incomes have dropped for younger workers.

From 2001 to 2011, the median income for all U.S. households fell by 6.6 percent, when inflation was taken into account, according to census data. But the median income for households headed by someone 65 or older rose by 13 percent.

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Categories: Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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